“…I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going.”

These were among Hunter Thompson’s first words to the world, written by an already world-weary 22-year-old into a novel that didn’t get published until decades later. Those words, along with the entirety of “The Rum Diary,” reflect a brilliant mind struggling to find its voice. We all know the end of the story, as Thompson went on to change the face of journalism, modern literature and political and social commentary. Much like the novel it so closely follows, Johnny Depp’s labor of love, “The Rum Diary,” is savage, occasionally brilliant and often aimless.

Depp plays Paul Kemp, a fictionalized replica of Thompson himself, a talented young journalist who escapes New York to join a quickly tanking publication, “The San Juan Star.” What was supposed to be an exercise in reflection, soul-searching and substance-induced belligerence turns into a sour web of corporate greed, financial woe and substance-induced belligerence. The film kind of lumbers along, the plot loosely strung together by moments of brilliance and clarity that are few and far between. Depp, who was a close friend of Thompson, embodies his character with the soul, wit and depravity that the Gonzo journalist enthusiastically embraced, and those who are followers of Thompson’s work will find Depp’s rendering of the author’s inner-turmoil worth the ticket price.

Those expecting something along the lines of a second installment of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” will be disappointed, along with those who at least wanted something slightly bizarre and unconventional. But the film is admirable in that it is both flawed and faithful, giving audiences a glimpse at a young writer trying to find his voice beneath a pile of scrapped ramblings, cigarette butts and empty rum bottles. And knowing what that voice eventually developed into makes watching the sloppy beginnings of his “senseless odyssey” all the more entertaining.


About the Author

Paul Kitti
Paul Kitti
Paul studies at the University of Michigan by day and explores Ann Arbor for the best music and entertainment by night. You can find him at the Blind Pig promoting his favorite bands or standing in line outside the State Theater on Saturday nights. If you have any insider info on upcoming films/bands, just motion for him to take his headphones off because he wants to hear about it.